That may not be a good thing if recent history holds true. The Trojans have dominated Big Ten opponents over the past dozen years, including three Rose Bowl victories. USC has not lost to a Big Ten school since 1996.
Nearly every Buckeye that has been made available to the press in recent days has said Ohio State will have to play at its best in over to overcome the Trojans. Tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells may need to have a Curtis Enis-like performance at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday if the Buckeyes are to become the first Big Ten team to beat the Trojans since Enis' Penn State team on Aug. 25, 1996. Enis, then a sophomore, led the Nittany Lions to a 24-7 victory at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. in the 14th Kickoff Classic by scoring three touchdowns and rushing 27 times for 244 yards.
Ohio State will enter the Coliseum as underdogs Saturday night, but that does not bother the Buckeyes. Nor does the recent history that favors USC.
"Our stadium is great. Our fans our great - don't get me wrong," junior wide receiver Brian Hartline said. "But to go into a backs-against-the-wall mentality out to a prestigious team's (venue) … is going to be a lot of fun. I like those atmospheres. I like kind of being threatened, kind of being in a do-or-die position. … It's get the job done or get off the field."
Added defensive end Lawrence Wilson: "Nobody outside of our locker-room thinks we have a chance, so it's definitely big for us to show what we have."
Here is a look back at the Trojans' past seven games vs. Big Ten opponents (all ranking are from The Associated Press Top 25):
· No. 6 USC 49, No. 13 Illinois 17 (Jan. 1, 2008 - Rose Bowl): USC staked its claim as one of the best teams in the country by routing Big Ten runner-up Illinois.
Freshman tailback Joe McKnight had 170 of USC's Rose Bowl-record 633 yards of total offense. The Trojans' 49 points also tied Rose Bowl record.
Illinois did its best to keep the game close early in the third quarter when Rashard Mendenhall broke through for a 79-yard touchdown run that cut the USC lead to 21-10. Later in the half, the Fighting Illini threatened to score again after Mendenhall ran 55 yards on a Juice Williams screen pass. However, the Illini drive stalled when Kaluka Maiava forced one of four Illinois turnovers when he knocked the ball out of receiver Jacob Willis' hands and USC's Brian Cushing recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
Booty finished with 255 yards passing with three scores. He set a Rose Bowl record with seven career TDs in Pasadena. USC linebacker Rey Maualuga recorded three sacks, intercepted a pass and forced a fumble to lead the Trojan defense.
Mendenhall, in his final game with the Illini, finished with 214 total yards. Williams had 245 yards passing.
· No. 8 USC 32, No. 3 Michigan 18 (Jan. 1, 2007 - Rose Bowl): Three years to the day of their last meeting, USC repeating history with a win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
The Trojans put their upset at the hands of UCLA in the final game of the regular season behind them thanks in part to a huge effort by wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett. The junior caught 11 passes for 205 yards and two scores. Booty also ended his season on a high note, throwing for 391 yards and four scores.
The game was tied 3-3 at halftime, but USC broke the game open in the second half with 16-unanswered points in the third quarter. Michigan helped the Trojans get going in the third quarter. U-M quarterback Chad Henne set up a USC touchdown by throwing an interception. After a Michigan three-and-out, USC scored again on a 22-yard pass from Booty to Jarrett that capped a 70-yard drive.
Michigan got within one score early in the fourth quarter when Adrian Arrington caught a Henne pass for an 11-yard score. Mike Hart rushed for a two-point conversion that cut the lead to 19-11. Then Jarrett helped seal the win for USC with a 62-yard touchdown over All-American cornerback Leon Hall.
"He was as advertised," Hall said, referring to Jarrett. "He's a playmaker. We saw it on film, and we saw it today."
Michigan came into the game off a 42-39 loss to Ohio State in the wake of the passing of Bo Schembechler. If the Wolverines came to the Rose Bowl thinking they got a raw deal by being left out of the BCS National Championship Game, they likely didn't leave feeling that way. Michigan head coach lost his fourth straight bowl game and ended the season on a two-game losing streak for the third consecutive year.
· No. 1 USC 28, No. 4 Michigan 14 (Jan. 1, 2004 - Rose Bowl): The Trojans won their first AP national championship in 25 years with a New Year's Day victory over the Wolverines.
Matt Leinart threw for three touchdowns, and the USC defense hassled Michigan QB John Navarre and recorded nine sacks in the victory. USC built a 14-0 halftime lead and a 21-0 lead in the third quarter before Michigan responded. The Trojans turned a blocked Michigan field goal into their first touchdown when Keary Colbert caught the first of Leinart's TD passes, this one for 25 yards. Linebacker Lofa Tatupu's interception of a Navarre pass set up the second score. LenDale White took a Leinart toss 6 yards for a touchdown. Colbert would later add a 47-yard touchdown on the first drive of the second half to make it 21-0.
Navarre connected with tight end Tim Massaquoi on a 5-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 14 points, but USC responded with another score on a 15-yard reverse pass from wide receiver Mike Williams to an unguarded Leinart.
Leinart was named the game's MVP after throwing for 327 yards on 23-of-34 passing. Colbert became USC's career reception leader (207 catches) after catching six passes for a career-best 149 yards.
· No. 5 USC 38, No. 3 Iowa 17 (Jan. 2, 2003 - Orange Bowl): USC earned its first 11-win season since 1979 and broke the Hawkeyes' nine-game winning streak at ProPlayer Stadium in Miami, Fla.
Things started well for Iowa when C.J. Jones ran the opening kickoff 100 yards for a score. However, USC responded quickly when quarterback Carson Palmer connected on a 65-yard touchdown bomb to Kareem Kelly on the Trojans' first play from scrimmage. That set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Justin Fargas three plays later.
USC then added 31 unanswered points after an Iowa field goal on the ensuring drive. Mike Williams caught a touchdown pass, and Fargas ran for a career-long 50-yard touchdown to help USC break a 10-10 halftime tie. Tailback Sultan McCullough and fullback Sunny Byrd both added fourth-quarter touchdown runs.
Palmer, fresh off winning the Heisman Trophy, added the Orange Bowl MVP trophy to his mantle. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 303 yards. Heisman runner-up Brad Banks of Iowa completed 15 of 36 passes for 204 yards and an interception - the first pick he allowed in his last 104 attempts.
The Trojans dominated statistically, outgaining Iowa 550-323 and running for a season-best 247 yards on Iowa's run defense, which was ranked second nationally.
The win was USC's first in the state of Florida and was the first time either USC or Iowa had appeared in the Orange Bowl.
· No. 15 USC 29, No. 22 Penn State 5 (Aug. 27, 2000): The Trojans faced a mostly pro-Penn State crowd at Giants Stadium for the Kickoff Classic, but USC's special teams were just that vs. the Nittany Lions.
Frank Strong blocked a David Royer punt less than three minutes into the game, and Sandy Fletcher scooped up the ball and ran six yards for the game's first touchdown. Kicker David Newbury made three field goals, from 47, 27 and 44 yards, respectively.
USC built a 23-3 lead by halftime even without much help from the offense. Quarterback Carson Palmer was playing his first game since suffering a broken right collarbone in 1999 at Oregon. In his first game after an 11-month layoff, Palmer completed 10 of 20 passes for 87 yards and one interception.
· USC 27, Purdue 17 (Aug. 30, 1998): Palmer made his USC debut - as did head coach Paul Hackett - on a hot afternoon in Los Angeles in the ninth-annual Pigskin Classic.
With a thermometer on the field reading 118 degrees during the game, the Trojans turned up the head on Purdue in a 10-point victory. Palmer had a big part in that, rallying USC in the second half. The true freshman entered the game in the third quarter and connected with Larry Parker on a 42-yard bomb to set up a game-tying touchdown. Palmer guided USC to another score and a field goal as the Trojans pulled away.
Mike Van Raaphorst started for USC but was overshadowed by Palmer, igniting a quarterback controversy. Palmer won the battle and was the starter by the end of the '98 season.
Drew Brees led the Boilermakers by completing 30 of his 52 pass attempts for 248 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and two interceptions. Purdue led 17-10 at halftime but was held silent in the second half by USC's defense.
· No. 19 USC 55, Illinois 3 (Sept. 7, 1996): The Trojans held the Fighting Illini to only 88 yards on the ground in a road blowout victory at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
USC had allowed 241 rushing yards to Enis two weeks earlier, but Illinois had no such luck. The Illini held a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter, but the Trojans took command from there.
USC quarterback Brad Otton threw for 301 yards on just 12 completions, including an 84-yard score to Chris Miller that gave USC the lead. That was not even the longest touchdown play of the game for the Trojans. R. Jay Soward caught a pass late in the fourth quarter and ran it in for a 97-yard score.
Illinois' offense continued to struggle. By the end of the game, the Illini had got 12 straight quarters without scoring a touchdown.